THE MAKEOVER SAGA

A DIVE INTO THE ROLE OF COAL IN A WORLD DOM­I­NATED BY RE­NEW­ABLES.

Business Today - - THE BREAKOUT ZONE - By Joe C. Mathew

STO­RIED GOV­ERN­MENT en­ter­prises are ei­ther too glo­ri­fied or too harshly crit­i­cised by those who care to doc­u­ment them. But this book is not just an­other mem­oir penned by a re­tired bu­reau­crat about his three-decade-long pro­fes­sional life and the com­pany he served. What Partha Sarathi Bhattacharyya, for­mer Chair­man and Manag­ing Di­rec­tor of the cen­tral pub­lic sec­tor en­ter­prise Coal In­dia (CIL) tells us is an in­trigu­ing evo­lu­tion from a loss-mak­ing en­tity to In­dia’s third largest profit-mak­ing CPSE.

CIL is a bell­wether and ac­counts for 15 per cent of the cu­mu­la­tive net prof­its of 174 prof­itable CPSEs (out 257 op­er­at­ing ones). Around 84 per cent of In­dia’s coal out­put comes from its mines, an in­di­ca­tion of the piv­otal role it plays in a coun­try that de­pends on coal for 73 per cent of its power gen­er­a­tion. With about 3,00,000 work­ers across the par­ent com­pany and its sub­sidiaries, it is also one of the largest CPSE em­ploy­ers. The makeover is thus closely linked to In­dia’s eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion from a so­ciopo­lit­i­cal ecosys­tem that used to pro­mote an all-per­va­sive rent-seek­ing cul­ture through its CPSEs to one that seeks to max­imise the po­ten­tial of its CPSEs for greater com­mon good.

The first two chap­ters talk about the early days of coal mine na­tion­al­i­sa­tion, the fol­low­ing mo­nop­oly and in­ef­fi­cien­cies, and the mafia it cre­ated. Next, the book re­lates the bold ex­per­i­ments that the writer and his team tried out in tune with In­dia’s tryst with eco­nomic lib­er­al­i­sa­tion in the 1990s. The new-found fo­cus on fi­nan­cial sus­tain­abil­ity, tech­nol­ogy, so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity and em­ployee-friend­li­ness has been cov­ered in the next two chap­ters that fur­ther nar­rate CIL’s big-splash cap­i­tal mar­ket en­try. Its $3.5 bil­lion IPO was over­sub­scribed 15 times, turn­ing the com­pany into one of the most-val­ued (in terms of mar­ket cap) pub­lic-listed en­ti­ties.

But that is not the end. The writer’s views on coal as an en­ergy op­tion in­clude for­ward-think­ing ob­ser­va­tions, given that In­dia wants to gen­er­ate 40 per cent of its power from re­new­able sources in a decade or so. While the fi­nan­cial, po­lit­i­cal and so­cial im­pli­ca­tions of CIL’s trans­for­ma­tion make the book an in­ter­est­ing case study of pub­lic-sec­tor re­ju­ve­na­tion, Bhattacharyya’s tips for the fu­ture tell us to pre­pare for the co­ex­is­tence of coal and re­new­ables in near-to-medium term, in a man­ner that is sus­tain­able and com­pet­i­tive.

WHEN COAL TURNED GOLD: The Mak­ing of a Ma­haratna Com­pany BY PARTHA SARATHI BHATTACHARYYA PUB­LISHER: Pen­guin Port­fo­lio Pages: 288 Price: ` 699

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